How To Set Up A Rat Cage & What You Will Need

How To Set Up A Rats Cage & What You Will Need
Source: @vivusrats Instagram

Buying the perfect cage for your rats can be quite daunting. There’s so much choice! When deciding on what to get, first you will need to consider 3 main things:

  • How many rats will it house? Not every cage suitable for 2 rats will be good for 5 and you need to provide at least 2 cubic feet per rat which equals to 29” x 15” x 18” (72cm x 36cm x 44cm) in cage dimensions.
  • How much space do you have? It’s important to roughly know where you will position the cage in your home and check what size of habitat you can accommodate. Remember, the cage should be placed in an area with no draughts, direct sunlight or where temperature varies significantly during the day and night.
  • What’s your budget? You can have all the space in the world and want to adopt as many rats, but if you can’t afford to house them in a suitable cage, it’s not going to happen. So it’s good to know how much money you can spend before deciding on the best possible habitat for your little furry friends.

When you have the answers to the above questions, it’s time to think what kind of things will you rats need to make their new home comfortable. After all, your furry friends will spend most of the day inside the cage, so it’s important to know what do rats like in their cage and how to furnish it to make them feel at home. While you don’t need to use everything we list here, you should choose at least 3 items in setting up your cage.

Ledges For Getting Places

If you have a tall cage, you will need various ledges to help your rats get around and maximize the use of the whole cage. There are many different ledges available in pet stores and online. They can be plastic or wooden, but remember to only choose untreated wood and avoid softwoods like pine as they can be harmful to rat’s breathing. A great choice for your rat are lava stone ledges – they’re not only handy to get around but your rats will file their nails down when standing on them and even grind their teeth by ‘eating’ the edges. Easy to fit inside your cage, they come in a few different colours to match the decor!

Pet Rats Love Sleeping on Shelves
Source: @lazy_rats Instagram

Shelves For Pancake Sleeping

Rats love to sleep on flat surfaces and shelves are perfect for that! Your cage might already come with some fitted, but you can always add more as and when you need them. Plastic and wood (suitable for rats) shelves will do the job and you can cover them with fabric or fleece for extra grippiness and absorbing moisture. It can be worth treating wooden shelves with a water based sealant like Plastikote which will prevent the urine soaking into the wood and it’s safe for animals. It will keep the smell at bay, especially if you have boy rats as they mark their territory often.

Ropes For Climbing

Great idea for your rat to move from ledge to ledge, climb and have fun! It’s well known that climbing strengthens rat’s back and core muscles, making it fit and healthy. Ropes are especially favoured by female rats as they are more agile and adventurous than boys. You can buy them in any pet store (often in bird toys section) or even use ones designed for dogs. It’s super easy to tie them to the cage bars and create a monkey jungle for your rats to enjoy.

Hideaways For Alone Time

Pet rats love to socialize with their owners and play, but they also value their privacy. There’s no place better to have a cheeky snooze than a cosy hideway. Whenever they sleep, rats feel ‘exposed to danger’, just like they would in the wild and therefore is important to provide them with a safe environment to nap, groom or just be by themselves for a while. Whether it’s a wooden house, fabric tent or even a cardboard box, your rats will enjoy lazy afternoons in their comfy, enclosed spaces.

Hammocks For Snuggling

Pet Rats In A Plastic Space Pod
Source: @fur_real_family Instagram

Same as with the hideaways, hammocks are perfect for lazy ratties to chill in. It’s a good idea to hang them high up in the cage and make sure your rats can climb up in the hammock without a struggle. Most popular designs are flat, honeycomb or bunkbed hammocks and you can buy them in pet stores or even make them yourself!

Dig Box For Having Messy Fun

Many rat owners encourage their pet’s natural instincts to rummage and sniff for food with an easy to set up dig box. You can use a deep plastic box or the bottom of the cage (if you have a deep pan or see through plastic sides) and fill it with wood shavings (like aspen, must be dust free!) or soil. If you scatter some tiny treats inside, your rats will have hours of fun digging through. Be warned though: it can be quite a messy business!

Toys For Itchy Teeth

Most rats enjoy gnaw sticks or toys hanging or laying around in their cage and can spend ages trying to destroy them. It’s a great way of grinding their itchy teeth (which grow all their life) and provide entertainment for hours at a time. Toys are especially attractive to female rats, as they hardly ever stay still and want to explore everything. Boys are usually interested when there’s food involved, so a toy with a treat inside might be best choice for them.

Litter Box For A Little Privacy

It’s well established that pet rats can be litter trained with a bit of encouragement. Teaching your rats to do their dirty business in one place is something worth trying, especially while they are young, and it will definitely save you time when cleaning their cage. All you need is some small pet safe litter and a container to keep it in (do not use cat litter as it’s dusty and can be toxic to rats!).

Litter Box for Rats
Source: @southernrodents Instagram

Baskets To Hide In

Pet rats love climbing inside things, where they can relax and feel cosy while resting. Plastic baskets are a fantastic way of providing your furry friends with more places to explore. They are very easy to fix to the cage too, just use cable ties and make sure it’s sturdy enough for a rat pile!

Running Wheel For Exercise

While running wheels are attributed mostly to hamsters, rats can also enjoy a spot of exercise on them. Many young rats, girls more often than boys, will happily run to burn off the abundance of energy they have in their little bodies, but of course, rats require much bigger running wheels than your standard rodent! It’s vital you choose a sturdy one that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has a smooth surface. Metal bar running wheels are not suitable for rats as the uneven flooring can cause their feet to blister. And don’t be surprised if your older rats use the wheel for sleeping in, rather than running…

Food and Drink Area aka The Dining Room

Clean water in a drinking bottle or a dish should always be available in your rat’s cage but don’t overdo it on the food. It’s a great idea to leave bits and bobs for your rats to forage around the cage, as well as a small amount of block food in the bowl. If your rats get along and share food without squabbling, it’s best to have a designated area in the cage for the food bowl. To avoid spillage and mess everywhere, look for food bowls on a wooden stand (like you would for a cat or dog), which won’t topple over. You should have at least 2 water bottles located on different levels in the cage to provide easy access.

Sky is the limit!

So now you have a pretty good idea what you will need for your rats to be comfortable and happy in their home. Some of the items we mentioned might not interest your rats at all (some rats have no interest for toys or the running wheel), but it’s good to provide them with a varied environment and let your rats decide what they like best. As time passes and you change the layout inside the cage hundreds of times, you will figure out what your rats prefer. For a comprehensive guide on how to clean the cage the right way, check out this article.

When setting up the perfect rat cage stick to three rules:

  • choose the right type and size of cage for your rat’s needs
  • make sure your rats have plenty of space
  • provide them with plenty to do and play with

Your rats won’t care about the colour scheme or hammock patterns inside their habitat, but as long as you furnish your rat cage with the basic items they need for comfort and enrichment, the rest is up to you! There really is no limit, when it comes to decorating and setting up the perfect cage!

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